BEEF Daily

5 Resources For South Dakota Ranchers Hit By October Blizzard


For the ranchers hit by the Atlas Blizzard, here are five resources that offer assistance. 

Editor's note: A sixth relief fund has been added to the list. Check back often for more updates.

It’s being called the worst blizzard in our state’s history. The “Atlas” blizzard brought 55 in. of snow and 60-mph winds, which resulted in tens of thousands of cattle killed in western South Dakota and neighboring areas. We continue to hear more reports on this devastating storm that has impacted so many of our friends and colleagues in the beef business.

A few days ago, I blogged about this storm, asking for prayers of support and providing a preliminary report on the cattle death loss.

You can read the post here and offer your own stories and prayers.

One thing I’ve noticed among comments on social media are some that imply that ranchers who sustained cattle losses due to the storm must not have been good caretakers of their livestock. Anyone who has battled Mother Nature knows that she is ultimately in charge, and with cattle still in summer pastures in many cases (this is early October after all), there was little protection from the elements when this early storm blew through the prairie.

As winter approaches, most ranchers will bring their livestock closer to home, where there is more shelter, and feed and water resources are closer. However, there was no time to prepare for the early blast of winter weather that caught many off guard. Additionally, since the weather had been so nice prior to the blizzard, the cattle hadn’t yet developed their winter coats, which left them more vulnerable to the elements.

These ranchers are some of the best in the country, and the loss of these cattle is more than financial; it’s emotional, too. I can’t imagine the heartbreak these folks are feeling right now, and I feel fortunate that my ranch was spared.

With the government shutdown and an expired farm bill, there is no federal safety net for ranchers. There is nobody to report death loss to, and any financial aid that was once available is out of reach for those wrestling with the loss of their cattle. Some are reporting up to 50% loss of their herds. With no help in sight, there are several grassroots efforts to help these ranchers. Here is a list of five resources you should know about.

1. South Dakota Cattle Locator

This Facebook page offers a central location to help connect ranchers who have lost or found cattle after the devastating winter storm dubbed Atlas and return them to their owners.

2. Blizzard Ranch Relief And Aid

This Facebook page is a catch-all for information about the blizzard. Check back daily for updates on the storm’s devastation, as well as new resources for ranchers.

3. Heifers For South Dakota

According to this Facebook page, “This is a group for those who are wanting to pledge a heifer, be it a bred yearling or a replacement-quality weanling for a rancher in South Dakota. Let’s reach out to our neighbors in their time of need. This will be a 501-c-3 not-for-profit group. That status can't be obtained until the government is going again. The focus is on providing breeding stock to family-type ranches whose primary income is from agriculture. All are encouraged to help in any way they can, be that informing potential donors, hauling livestock, coordinating brand and health inspections or donating dollars towards fuel. All livestock are appreciated, but I challenge those giving to give an animal that they would be proud to own, with the focus on quality breeding stock.”


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4. Black Hills Area Community Foundation’s South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund 

The South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund was established on Oct. 8, 2013 by Black Hills Area Community Foundation (BHACF) to provide support and relief assistance to those in the agriculture industry impacted by the blizzard of Oct. 4-7, 2013. The fund will be administered by BHACF in cooperation with the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association and the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association for the direct benefit of the livestock producers impacted by this devastating blizzard.

5. Volunteers For SD Ranchers

There are many volunteers willing to help gather, move, sort, and haul livestock. Many have horses and four-wheelers and are willing to travel to the ranchers in need. If you are a rancher who needs help with these tasks, please call 605-274-1407 or 605-274-1408. 

6. AgChat Foundation Offers Support

The AgChat Foundation has a goal of raising $500,000 to help the area ranchers. To donate to this cause or learn more information, click here.

If you have additional information or resources for ranchers who were impacted by this blizzard, leave them in the comments section below.


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Discuss this Blog Entry 8

Anonymous (not verified)
on Oct 10, 2013

It would be interesting if someone could compare this recent October blizzard to the huge 3-day blizzard of May 6, 7, and 8 in the late spring of 1904 in western South Dakota.

Peter Franzky (not verified)
on Oct 10, 2013

Everyone, please keep praying for our suffering ranchers during this very difficult time. Thank you.

RanchersRelief (not verified)
on Oct 10, 2013

These are the social media sites for the official relief fund, administered by the three major livestock producer organizations in South Dakota. 100% of donations will go directly to producers. All administration costs are covered by the associations or volunteers.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Oct 11, 2013

While this is a huge tragedy for all involved, why does not having a "farm bill" be of such note? Are we as a nation so far gone we have to lean on the government for everything? Good gravy people, lets help our neighbors and keep the federal government out of it!!

Anonymous (not verified)
on Oct 11, 2013

What about the 4 day blizzard in the later part of April 1984.

on Oct 12, 2013

Fleet of Angels, a national network of horse-savvy volunteers, is on call to assist in SD with large animal search and rescue, cattle sorting, transporting of at-risk equines, and offers fence and facility repair assistance. Anyone who would like to become an FOA angel, or anyone who would like the assistance of the SD Fleet of Angels team can register at, and then join the SD Fleet of Angels Evacuation and Disaster Response Network page on Facebook at

Bob Mc Crudden (not verified)
on Oct 12, 2013

My wife and I drove through South Dakota this week. It was heart breaking to see the live stock lying dead on the plains. During this emergency it occurred to me that the ranchers associations could reach out to industries that also prosper from our natural resources. They would be the oil and gas industry, the railroads, the mining industry and others. How about having a spokesman appear on local and national media to help raise awareness and contributions. How about schools have parents and children " buy a steer." Many Christian church groups should be glad to contribute to this effort. Like in days past when people and families helped each other, let us all help the ranchers and their families. Bob Mc Crudden

Anonymous (not verified)
on Oct 16, 2013

For those of you that keep asking to compare this to past spring blizzards, Yes the storm was very comprable to those storms. BUT!!! the time of year was the factor.
2-3 inches of rain prior to the snow, made mud knee deep in all of the low or protected areas that cattle naturally go to for protection and all animals have the instinct to move to higher ground when things set wetter and muddy.
The mother cows are at thier body condition lows for the season as they are just ready to or just have weaned a calf, been grazing on lush green grass due to the abundant moisture of late (cattle like it but very little energy in it),lack of a winter hair coat (we still haven't had a hard frost yet), so comparatively they were cought in shorts and Tee shirts.
In summary the difference would be like crawling knee deep mud and 2 feet of snow, soaked, cold,wind blowing 70 mph, hungry and in Tee shirt and shorts compared to the same storm on firm frozen ground wearing Carhart coveralls and able to duck into at least some shelter.

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What's BEEF Daily?

BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”


Amanda Radke

Amanda Radke is a fifth generation rancher from Mitchell, S.D., who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State...

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